Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

When the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Fraser Minten in round two (38th overall) of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, few Maple Leafs fans thought too much about it. Another non-first-round draft choice forced by a team that had historically traded its top choices away each season at the trade deadline. However, surprise. The young Minten has been a revelation for the team and has developed more steadily and quickly than many would have imagined.

This season, after he had a solid training camp, the Maple Leafs brain trust decided to keep Minten with the big club instead of sending him back to his junior hockey Kamloops Blazers team. Now, the 19-year-old forward has already played three games for the Maple Leafs and will play a fourth game tonight against the Florida Panthers.

Minten Is Smart and Plays Great Defense, But Nada for Offense Thus Far

While he’s showcased his on-ice potential, Minten hasn’t yet turned that potential into offense. Give him credit for his defensive play; however, nothing to show for his ability to score – at least not yet. Something seems a bit off; and, he hasn’t yet turned chances into points, even though his third-line partner Matthew Knies has set him up a time or two.

Fraser Minten, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Knies and Minten developed almost instant chemistry during the preseason. However, with the news that Knies is being bumped up to the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander, the two are no longer together. Where does that leave Minten?

Related: 4 Maple Leafs Questions That Must Be Answered Before Season

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The question that looms is whether he should stay with the team or be sent back to junior hockey in the Western Hockey League (WHL). In this post, I’ll explore the reasons why fans should expect Minten will likely be sent back to juniors. That’s the question that The Hockey Writers Maple Leafs Lounge analysts Peter Baracchini and Jim Parsons got together to discuss in the video below.

Minten’s Successful NHL Debut Doesn’t Mean He’s Ready

Minten’s journey to the NHL began with a standout preseason performance. He displayed the skills and potential that earned him a spot on the Maple Leafs’ roster. However, as his regular-season games progressed, it became evident that Minten might not be fully ready for an extended stay in the big leagues.

As Parsons suggests, there’s a difference between being “capable” and being “a good player.” He would send Minten back – no question. I tend to agree. There are three reasons to send Minten back.

Reason One: Sending Minten Back to Junior Hockey Will Aid His Development

One of the primary reasons for sending Minten back to juniors is to energize his ongoing development. While he might be capable of keeping up in the NHL, he hasn’t yet demonstrated that he’s an outstanding or consistent performer – at least not on the offensive side of the ice. Sending him back to junior hockey would provide an opportunity for him to further refine his skills and gain more experience.

Related: Maple Leafs Defense an Early Cause for Concern in 2023-24

Reason Two: Sending Minten Back to Junior Hockey Will Extend His Entry-Level Contract

Another crucial factor centers around Minten’s entry-level contract. By returning to the WHL, the Maple Leafs can extend their control over his contract. That would allow the team to preserve valuable cap space for the future. In short, it saves the club money.

Reason Three: Sending Minten Back to Junior Hockey Would Be the Long-Term Logic

NHL hockey teams must make choices that consider the long-term perspective. The goal is not just to have Minten be an average (or capable) NHL player; instead, it is to develop him into a top-tier talent. Giving him more time in junior hockey would allow him to grow his game and gain the experience necessary to succeed at the highest level.

If Minten Is Moved Down, Who Could Replace Him?

If Minten returns to juniors, the Maple Leafs will need to find a suitable replacement. Nick Robertson is one name that comes up in discussions. While Baracchini and Parsons share reservations about Robertson’s readiness due to injury-related issues, there should be few concerns about his productivity. Robertson has been lighting the lamp with the American Hockey League (AHL) Toronto Marlies.

Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In two AHL games thus far, Robertson has scored five points – two goals and three assists. Although Baracchini and Parsons suggest that he might be only a temporary solution, the fact is that he might be more. As well, both Pontus Holmberg and Bobby McMann might also be ready for prime time. I’d love to see one of the Marlies’ youngsters move up.

Should Minten, in fact, be moved down, the Maple Leafs will be on the lookout for a player who can provide a more long-term fix for the absence he leaves. We might see in a week or so.

The Bottom Line

The expectation that Minten will be sent back to juniors is rooted in the belief that his development and the preservation of his entry-level contract are of paramount importance. While he has shown potential, the NHL is a highly competitive league. In fact, rather than face frustration at the highest level, Minten would likely benefit from further time in junior hockey. He likely would dominate there.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Reaves: More Than Just Muscle

The long and short of it is that a decision to move Minten to the Kamloops Blazers would ultimately serve both the long-term interests of the Maple Leafs, as well as their promising young forward. Although he’s still with the big club, that might only be until the end of the team’s current five-game road trip.

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The post The Case for the Maple Leafs to Return Fraser Minten to the WHL appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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